Wife-killer Gerard Baden-Clay will no longer be re-sentenced early this year after prosecutors succeeded in having the hearing postponed pending a High Court challenge.
Chief Justice Catherine Holmes agreed with Director of Public Prosecutions Michael Byrne that sentencing the 45-year-old for manslaughter could be pointless if the High Court appeal succeeds.
A Supreme Court jury in July 2014 found the former Brisbane real estate agent guilty of murdering his wife Allison in April 2012, but that conviction was set aside in the Court of Appeal last month and replaced with manslaughter.
Queensland attorney-general Yvette D’Ath this week announced Mr Byrne was applying for special leave to appeal the downgraded conviction in the High Court.
At a Court of Appeal hearing in Brisbane on Friday, Justice Holmes said issuing a new sentence for manslaughter could be a waste of time.
“I do see merit in the argument that the process of … determining the sentence which should be imposed for manslaughter may be rendered inutile (pointless) if the applicant were to succeed,” she said.
“On the other hand I see no real prejudice to the respondent, Mr Baden-Clay, in the delay of some months in the determination of his sentence.”.
The chief judge rejected Mr Byrne’s argument that the case should be treated differently due to the “extreme” level of public commentary, and took the opportunity to hit out at some of it.
“The public comment, there’s a fair bit of it already – some informed, some staggeringly ill-informed – but it’s there and no doubt will continue,” Justice Holmes said.
“So I don’t quite see what difference it makes whether we proceed to impose another sentence.”
Justice Holmes was one of the three Court of Appeal judges who downgraded Baden-Clay’s murder verdict in last month’s shock decision that sparked community outrage.
Baden-Clay tried to block the sentence postponement, with his barrister Tony Glynn arguing unsuccessfully that the prisoner was entitled to know as soon as possible what his sentence was.
A High Court appeal, if there is one, would be months away.
A preliminary hearing to determine whether an appeal will go ahead isn’t expected until March at the earliest.
Mr Byrne’s application, filed on Monday, seeks High Court orders to either dismiss the Court of Appeal’s ruling or order a re-hearing of Baden-Clay’s appeal.